With more than 50 years of hit making behind them, original Motown act The Temptations are still going strong.
In 1964, the band rose to international fame with the Smokey Robinson written and produced hit ‘The Way You Do The Things You Do.” What followed was 37 Top Ten hits, including timeless classics like “My Girl,” “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” “Ball of Confusion,” “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep,” “I Wish It Would Rain” and “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)”.
The classic lineup behind those hits – Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin – came to be known as much for their tightly choreographed stage moves as the music itself.
Although that classic lineup of the band had splintered by the time the 60’s rolled into the 70’s – leaving only Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin behind – The Temptations had indeed made their mark and continued releasing new music throughout the 70’s.
The early 80’s saw Ruffin and Kendricks return to the group for their acclaimed album Reunion. Unfortunately, a reported combination of personal differences and record label difficulties soured the proceeding, leading Ruffin and Kendricks to the exit door once again following the conclusion of the Reunion tour.
The following decade proved to be devastating to the group. David Ruffin passed away in June 1991, followed by Eddie Kendricks the following year. In 1995, Melvin Franklin, one of two remaining original members, died following a brain seizure.
Since Franklin’s unfortunate passing, Otis Williams has carried on the legacy of the band with an immense pride and acute awareness of the timeless music the group has made.
“I migrated to Detroit around the time I was 11 or 12 years old,” Williams says, recalling the band’s beginnings. “It was fate as it was there that I met up with Melvin, David, Eddie and Paul.”
Williams says that while Detroit earned a reputation as the home of the Big Three automakers, many considered the city’s influential Motown label to wield a lot of influence as well.
“So much of the music of the day was emanating from New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles,” Williams says. “Detroit becoming a music powerhouse was definitely an anomaly, but was one that showed the city could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those other major American centres and certainly hold our own.”
Having spent the first few years of the 60’s relentlessly trying to find the perfect lineup to bring its hits to life, Williams acknowledges that the group’s fortunes didn’t suddenly land on easy street following the success of its first hit in 1964.
“After ‘The Way You Do The Things You Do’ became a hit, it didn’t make us superstars overnight. That success challenged us as a group: How do we work to stay on top? How are we going to live up to that success? Of course, it all worked out and was a wonderful adventure. I’d never complain about having been a part of something successful because that’s what you had always hoped would happen.”
Despite more than five decades having passes since the group secured their first hit, retiring The Temptations’ name is not something Williams is contemplating. Estimating the group continues to perform up to 30 weeks out of the year, he notes the group’s tour schedule has struck a good balance between life at home and life on stage.
First and foremost, however, he is simply thrilled to be able to continue sharing The Temptations’ music.
“I am blessed to be able to get on stage and sing these songs. There is a timeless quality to this music that is a true testament to what we created; the culmination of great lyrics and great melodies combined with superb production. When you’ve got all that working in your favour, which is certainly the case for a lot of the music that comes from Motown, it’s easy to see why this music is still so loved by people of all ages,” Williams says.
What: The Temptations
When: Thursday Aug. 25, 8 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets start at $49.99 plus taxes and service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone 1-866-943-8849 and online at www.casinonb.ca